Highway 1 Studio Tour offers unique arts experience in southwest Saskatchewan

The participants in the 11th Highway 1 Studio Tour that takes place Sept. 16-17. Seated, left to right, Hedi Gossweiler, Randy Lawson and Sally Knelsen. Standing, left to right, Andrea Haughian, Sharon Penner, Jesse Hamm, Shantel Wall, Keely Williams, Maria Enns, Carol Furman, Fern Rempel, Elaine Robitaille, Morghie Flaterud and April Bradley (organizer). Missing: Stacey Erickson, Donald Ferguson, Krista Routledge and Marsha Schuld (organizer).

By Matthew Liebenberg

A relaxed, self-guided tour to various studio locations along the Trans-Canada Highway will offer an opportunity to discover and learn more about the work of several talented southwest Saskatchewan artists.

The 11th Highway 1 Studio Tour takes place on Sept. 16 and 17 with eight stops between Beverley, just west of Swift Current, and the Herbert area to showcase the work of 16 artists.

April Bradley, who is the current president of this art collective, said they are excited about the return of the tour.

“There is a good mix of artists and a lot of different talents that people all bring together,” she mentioned.

This is the first time in several years that the Highway 1 Studio Tour is taking place again. It was started in 2009 by a group of artists looking for a different way of exposure and interaction with the public.

The group decided to take a year off after their 10th anniversary studio tour in 2018, but that became an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We thought it would be good to get back out and get people to see the artwork again,” she said. “There was a lot of interest to do it again and we decided to go ahead.”

The tour offers an opportunity for artists to interact in a relaxing setting with art lovers and anyone interested in learning more about art.

“It’s a little bit more low-key than other kind of trade shows,” she noted. So you’re a little more laid-back and you get to interact with people a lot more. It’s nice to share how you make it and it’s easier to show when your space is there and people get to see more of what’s inspired you, because so many people are inspired by their surroundings and then you can come see it. So it’s easier to translate a lot of that when people can just see it first-hand.”

The event is a great opportunity for those undertaking the tour to visit different studio settings and meet a number of artists at the same time.

“They get to see where the art is made and they get to see the artist’s inspiration,” she said. “They get to go out and explore the countryside too. So it’s a nice thing to do with friends.”

In previous years most of the studio tour visitors were area residents, but it also attracted art lovers from elsewhere, including Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw, and curious highway travellers who saw the signs. Harvest has started earlier this year and it might therefore also be easier for members of the farming community to join in.

In past years all the tour stops were in rural locations, but this time there will be two studio locations in Swift Current. Loft Originals Studio (1175 North Hill Drive) is the work space of landscape painter Sally Knelsen. Artist Maria Enns, who creates one-of-a-kind notebooks and tote bags from repurposed and recycled materials, will also be present at this location.

The other Swift Current location is Field & Fable (127 8th Avenue NW), the studio of polymer and ceramic clay artist Elaine Robitaille. The other artists present here during the studio tour will be painter Andrea Haughian and photographer Donald Ferguson.

Robitaille participated in several previous studio tours, but always based at another artist’s studio. She is therefore excited to have her studio included as a tour stop this year.

“My place is like the classic small-town mom and pop shop with my husband doing his thing on one side and me doing my thing on the other side, which is handmade goods from a lot of the artists on the tour and then my own studio in the back,” she said.

She feels the Highway 1 Studio Tour is not only a more relaxed experience than a typical craft or trade show, but also an opportunity to take a peek into what an artist studio looks like.

“I think that’s really cool,” she said. “I like to see people doing what they do best. I like to see where their paint is. I like to see where their mess is. I like to see how the stuff gets made, what their spin on it is.”

Shantel Marie Art Studio near Beverley is the creative space of painter Shantel Wall, who describes her style as unique decorative abstract. Ceramic artist Keely Williams will be displaying her pottery at this location.

The studio of potter Carol Furman is located in a tranquil setting near Rush Lake. She creates functional objects and sculpture with medium-fire clay from the Eastend area in southwest Saskatchewan. The other artists at this location will be illustrator Morghie Flaterud and painter Fern Rempel.

There are several tour stops in the Herbert area. Alpaca fibre artist Hedi Gossweiler will be located in the town at her gift shop, which is at the Lone Eagle Motel. The other town location is Distinct Designs (320 Brownlee Street), the studio of jewelry artist and photographer Krista Routledge. Randy Lawson, who creates custom frames from rustic barn wood, will also be located here.

Two studio stops are located south of Herbert. Dare 2 Dream Studio is the artistic space of mixed media artist Stacey Erickson, who recently began using recycled discs and resin in her art.

Thistle Studio is located on a family farm, where painter Sharon Penner works in different media. She will be joined by mixed media artist Jesse Hamm, who creates macrame and rustic wood art.

According to Bradley the variety of participants in this year’s studio tour will provide visitors with interesting perspectives on the way artists view the world.

“So you can see the different expressions of that, because there’s some classics like your painting and your pottery ceramics,” she said. “But then there’s like Randy, his frames are all made from reclaimed barn wood, and Maria is upcycling things. Morghie does a lot of illustration work, there’s lots of jewelry this year too, and then all the alpaca items out at Herbert with Hedi as well.”

The self-guided format of the tour means visitors can start their journey at any of the eight locations and then continue their exploration from there. Those who visit all eight locations can collect a mark from each stop to be eligible to win one of two gift baskets valued at over $300. Each basket contains items handmade by artists on the tour.

There will be visible signage to provide directions to the different locations from the highway. Admission at all locations is free. The Highway 1 Studio Tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 16 and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 17.

For more information about the tour and the artists, and to download a rack card, visit the tour’s website at www.highway1studiotour.ca